The Gap Band
A big influence on '2015's Uptown Funk', the Gap Band were one of the biggest funk bands of the late 70s and early 80s. If you've been to a bar or listened to an oldies station in the last 30 years, you'll be free with at least some of their hits. 'Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)', 'You Dropped a Bomb on Me' and 'Outstanding' are great, timeless tracks that remain highly influential on music today.
The S.O.S Band
When you start looking at 80s RnB, you're going to be spending a lot of time in the company of uber-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Members of the Prince-backed band The Time, they were fired from the band and became producers. The S.O.S. Band were their first big credit, producing their album On The Rise, and their first major hit 'Just Be Good To Me'.
A former bandmate of Jam and Lewis, O'Neal achieved a few chart hits, but never really found success in his homeland. His mid-80s hits 'What's Missing', 'Criticise', and 'Fake', along with his duets with Cherrelle, remain terrific examples of late 80s RnB. Before Janet Jackson, O'Neal was the major beneficiary of Jam and Lewis's talents, and his 80s albums are as much a testament to their abilities as they are of O'Neal's great pipes.
White's period of success was relatively brief, but produced some great music that helped to create the genre known as New Jack Swing -- a fusion of RnB with the aggressive textures and beats of hip hop. White had the benefit of great collaborators -- hitmakers Babyface and LA Reid oversaw her debut, while Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis took the reins for its successor, Ritual of Love.
One of the great 80s vocal groups, following the release of their blockbuster Heart Break, New Edition fractured into a series of spinoffs -- Bobby Brown (who left before Heart Break was made), Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant spun off into successful solo careers, while the remaining members formed a popular trio -- Bill Biv DeVoe. This mini-industry helped to popularise New Jack and lay the groundwork for RnB in the following decade.
Click here for my review of Johnny Gill (1990).